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Development to the lakefront will be different

But will continue despite the departure of Harrah’s two riverboat casinos, Mayor Randy Roach said.

The city still intends to ask voters in July to allow commercial development of lakefront public property north of the Lake Charles Civic Center. Harrah’s Entertainment is expected to announce today at the state Gaming Control Board meeting that it will not reopen its Lake Charles facility. The two-riverboat casino complex was heavily damaged last September by Hurricane Rita. It has been closed since then. The 263-room casino hotel reopened in February as the Lakefront Hotel.

Pinnacle Entertainment, which owns the L’Auberge du Lac casino resort, is said to have asked to buy both of the gambling licenses: one for L’Auberge du Lac, the other for Port Allen on the Mississippi River in West Baton Rouge Parish.

“We wanted to give Harrah’s an opportunity before they made a final decision to consider development along the lakefront,” Roach said.

“The thought was that if they decided to stay, they would be building something that would compete with Pinnacle’s resort.”
The city gave Harrah’s a number of lakefront site options where the company could move its casino complex, Roach said.

“But if they are not going to come, then that doesn’t mean that development won’t happen,” he said.

“I think it means it will happen in a different way. I don’t consider this a major blow.”

Roach said he has talked with Andres Duany of Duany Plater-Zyberk, which put together the city’s post-Rita lakefront and downtown development plan.

“We are moving forward on our development agenda,” Roach said.

“There’s a great opportunity here for a residential-commercial type development. It could have been built around a casino and it could still be built around a casino.”

The loss of one of the Harrah’s Lake Charles gambling licenses will not necessarily mean a reduction in gambling taxes for the city. It had been collecting about $7 million a year from Harrah’s two riverboat casinos.

Under state law, the city would get all the gambling taxes generated by another riverboat casino at L’Auberge du Lac, according to the mayor. At present, casino resorts gambling taxes are split between the city, Calcasieu Parish and the Port of Lake Charles. This was done because the casino site had to be annexed into the city so it could be put on city water and sewerage.

Roach said legislation was passed last year that allows the city and the parish to form a gambling district that would pool gambling tax revenue. The money could be distributed for capital projects throughout the parish.

A bill in the ongoing Legislative session, if approved, would allow gambling districts to finance bonds for capital projects that can be repaid with gambling taxes.

“If this bill passes, then the city and the parish will create a local gaming district,” Roach said. “We did this because we wanted to spread the risk of the loss of revenue just in case Texas legalized gaming. We also recognized that if Pinnacle wants another license, there has to be a vote.”
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Wednesday, February 7, 2024
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